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Juneteenth in The Valley: What does celebrating look like?

Juneteenth officially lands on June 19 every year and is a federal holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the confederate states.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Although Juneteenth became an official federal holiday last year, this is something William Hampton, a Huntsville Historian, has been celebrating his whole life.

"Juneteenth is important to me because I am a descendant of enslaved persons, not only here in Alabama but in Texas. So, my great grandfather instilled in me an appreciation for this celebration," said Hampton.

RELATED: Yes, the post office will be closed on June 20 in observance of Juneteenth

He says this day has a complicated history… the Emancipation Proclamation that declared all persons free in 1863, did not make everyone free…

"Two and a half years later, folks over in Texas, enslavers, did not inform their enslaved persons that they were free," said Hampton.

"On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger rolled into Galveston with 2,000 troops. There were 250,000 enslaved persons in Texas who didn't know they were free. At Galveston, they were the last to get the message, 'you are now free' and then the order also stated that your relationship with your enslaver is now that of employer and employee," said Hampton.

Not only did the historian share this history with those who attended The Camp's Juneteenth Celebration but local artists and performers, like Marcus Dixon, aka Y.K Supe, were also excited to honor their culture.

"It's just a beautiful thing that the African American culture can have something that's ours, that we can take pride in and share with other cultures as well," said Dixon. 

RELATED: Juneteenth holiday closings

The bottom line is that Juneteenth helps connect us all.

"It is a day for all America to celebrate because we are all connected in some way to enslavement, whether socially, economically, we're all affected by what happened with America's enslavement of its citizens," said Hampton.

Juneteenth also helped connect locally owned businesses to each other and potential new customers today here in The Valley!

Businesses of all kinds gathered off of Pulaski Pike at the FUS-22 Juneteenth Event to highlight and support each other while also celebrating this freedom.

Two of those business owners share the importance of getting together like this:

"Juneteenth actually, for a lot of people, is something new. But for some of us, it's not something new. So it's really just a day of freedom, a day of celebration. And I wanted to use this as an opportunity for small businesses to celebrate themselves and be exposed to the community," said Kerry Warner, owner of Sets Revealed.

"There were times when we couldn't and didn't have the right to even, you know, get a business license or have a business so to see our people go from where we were to where we are today and to see us still scaling in the business sense, just means everything. You know, I'm proud to be here, among so many of us as business owners," said Jonathan Hambrick, owner of Big John's Huntsville. 

RELATED: Juneteenth in the Tennessee Valley

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